“When Bhakti Meets Tantra”
Over a decade ago, I began teaching a new program called “Awakening the Spiritual Heart” in Palm Beach, Florida. The heart, I realized at that time, was not only physical, and emotional, but spiritual, too. What this means is that there are three dimensions to our heart space: one is physical, another emotional, a third is spiritual. Imagine that: a three-dimensional heart, one that simultaneously exists in three distinct, yet inter-related dimensions, affecting one another.
Now consider integrating these three dimensions of the heart in order to facilitate an incomparable wholeness of being. And consider that sacred sound is a powerful way to achieve this state of wholeness, for it penetrates the heart, every chamber, every dimension, through its pervasive power. And that it can do so in a relatively short amount of time, and without intensive spiritual practice. In fact, a relatively moderate, well informed spiritual practice can achieve this state of wholeness.
I would like to get you started, right now, in this blog, with practice and insight on using sacred sound for healing, through sharing advance content on a brand new program that integrates Bhakti with Tantra, meaning integrating practices from the tradition of devotional chanting (Bhakti) with knowledge of the energy body and energy flow in the chakras (Tantra). This new program picks up from “Awakening the Spiritual Heart” and it constructed out of my 35 years of avid exploration, study, teaching and practice of both the Bhakti and Tantric traditions of sacred sound.
Today, there is a great need for the convergence of knowledge. When Bhakti Meets Tantra plays off the title of the famous movie “When Harry Met Sally”. When Bhakti Meets Tantra is, to be noted, in present tense. We must be acutely aware that we are creating this convergence in the here and now. In our own being and with our tribe. And, what unfolds, as Patanjali would say, is the unfolding of Yoga, union, spiritual relationship.
Relationship, we know is hugely important to us as humans. And this is precisely what both Bhakti as well as Tantra are about: relationship. And so is Yoga, when you look at it deeply enough, although I find the definition of Yoga as “the union of the individual self with the cosmic self” quite sterile and abstract. This does not imply anything negative towards Yoga, but simply begs for a more juicy definition for this amazing practice. And Yoga has indeed become juicer with the integration of kirtan and mantra.
On April 13th and 14th this year, I will be at Kula Yoga Shala in Jupiter, Florida, where I have sustained a deep teaching relationship for almost a decade. It is like a spiritual home to me, this sweet yoga space that is also a healing space where massage therapists as well as psycho therapists offer various modalities in a warehouse-like space tucked away in the back of a business complex. The space itself is incredibly warm. Scott Feinberg, who built the studio from the ground up, did so on an unusual, donation-based model.
His personal aura of loving energy has created an extraordinary community of yogis and yoginis comprised of practitioners as well as teachers. Healing is a strong focus in their practice together at Kula Yoga Shala. Hence, the relevance of this weekend program: “Restoring the Heart to Wholeness”. Hopefully, you are inspired by this blog to join us live, since both Scott and I will present this together. He’s an awesome yoga teacher and an amazing soul. I love collaborating with him and I’m so excited about what will unfold this year at his studio in Jupiter, FL.
It was Scott’s idea that, this year, I offer heart-centered teachings and mantras drawn from the Bhakti tradition, as he wanted to be able to tap a powerful experience of healing in the short amount of time a weekend program offers. He warmed up instantly though to my idea of integrating our Bhakti practices with Tantra, especially the intention to heal from negative experiences in our lives. Take a few moments to reflect on the section that follows in block quote:
Healing from negative experiences in our lives is quite a monumental task. You yourself probably relate to the fact that, despite years of therapy, despite feeling like you have gotten over your biggest hurt (whatever that is), it is not uncommon to still be triggered by something or the other, and relive the pain even now. We can find ourselves inadvertently pushed into the vortex of a dark hole that I like to call “the well”. And while what, on the surface, may appear inconsequential, could, when we are pushed into the well, by some trigger or other, feel gargantuan. We drop down into the well that resides within us. And it can still be a deep, dark hole.
What I want to get you started right on now is a powerful mantra to bring light into the darkness of this well, this hole, this wound, that you may not think is a wound anymore. You think you have healed it. You may believe you have gotten over it. But the facts state otherwise. You know that you put a lot of energy into avoiding being pulled into that hole. And you avoid people who pull you into that hole. You know that there are times, perhaps more often than not, that you are still triggered back into the hole, the well, by people, environments and circumstances. How can you change that? I want to show you how right now how to bring a spiritual light into that well with a mantra.
Changing the dynamics of what dwells in that hole is not easy. It is like Batman going back to the bat cave to face his deepest fears. Before one can do that, we need to amass a variety of powers. We cannot go in there and look at what needs to be looked at without super powers. And this is exactly what the combination of Tantra and Bhakti offer us.
Tantra is about power, and liberation. I have been an initiate of an ancient and highly revered branch of Tantra called Sri Vidya, the path of auspicious wisdom. It is a secretive path that I will share from in the live setting, not here, should you choose to join me in Jupiter, April 13 and 14. Sri Vidya Tantra is a path of healing, especially when it is combined with Bhakti. It has helped me deal with my own childhood trauma quite powerfully.
To get you started on your healing process right now, to bring a spiritual light into your deepest wound, I recommend the words “Sri Rama”. “Oh, but I know this mantra”, you might say. Of course you do. But did you know it could mean, “Oh Holy Light”?
There are esoteric and secret teachings around mantras that are not commonly known. It is this knowledge that I want to share with you. And it is not just the mantra by itself that can facilitate the healing. The mind and heart must be prepared, and the body must be brought into it. For trauma resides in the body. The body, we know today, keeps the score, as trauma expert Bessel Van Der Kolk has established in his seminal work.
If you have come thus far into this blog, you might intuit that trauma work is not some academic pursuit for me. I know it from the inside. And, while this is difficult work, both, to work through oneself, as well as help others, it is also the most powerful form of spiritual transformation any of us can undergo because it moves us into a space of enlightenment that is more profound and more real than anything we can encounter without undergoing such transformation.
So when you say “Sri Rama”, which is just the first part of the mantra, and which we need to take a step at a time, be acutely aware that the word “Rama” is invoking divine presence in the form of a holy light. In the beginning this light may be imagined. This might be the best one can do to get started on the practice, and it is important to imagine the light to get started. But the light gets real.
The reality of this light makes itself manifest to us when it persists in its own nature, its own luminosity, without our effort. At first though, we must put some effort into the process, to communicate to the divine that we do want to be healed. And to do this, we call out with the voice of our soul, with our authentic voice, our deepest identity. Once our soul’s voice establishes the power of the mantra, there is no more need to imagine the light for the sound of the mantra itself becomes luminous.
A mantra, we know, is spiritual light encoded in a sacred sound. When we learn to use sacred sound knowledgeably, saying our sacred words and mantras reverentially, connecting them to Divine Presence, we discover that the sounds are luminous, that they are charged with energy and healing power, that they have a capacity to penetrate our hearts, even the most hardened places, and reach into our vulnerability and helplessness. In that moment, we discover a strength, a joy, a peace, a knowledge that supersedes anything we can conceive of either in the mind or in the imagination.
As we say the mantra in this reverential way, connected to Divine Presence, said with love, with the yearning to be made whole, the inherent spiritual luminosity within the sound is extrapolated and we experience its healing power without needing to resort to the imagination. Sustaining our imagination when saying a mantra consumes a lot of energy, for there is a substantial amount of projection and association involved.
When the mantra gives off its own light, it takes no energy from us but gives us energy instead. There is no need for projections or associations anymore; in fact, there is no need even for belief. The healing effect of the sacred sound simply stares us in the face in its naked transparency, and the work of divine love is made manifest as we witness the grace, the wonder, the miracle of connectedness with Presence.
Of course, when one has a relationship with Lord Rama, a historical figure who was also a devata, an avatara, an incarnation of the divine on earth, there is the added luminosity and warmth of presence that is similar to the experience of Jesus or Krishna. Rama was of the solar dynasty, the Raghu clan, so the connection with Lord Rama and light is even further intensified with this mantra.
To bring the warmth of this holy light to the dark places of the heart, to the place of wounds, to the psycho-dynamics of pain, and psychological complexes around the pain, that is when the deep work begins. It is akin to holding a magic wand that gives off a glow of holy light that softly penetrates the wounds residing deep within our emotional heart, healing scars that may still fester with some harsh memories. If the wound is still raw, repeating the mantra sews up the wound.
Let’s begin with this process then, of restoring the heart to wholeness, with the sacred phrase, “Sri Rama”. From here, we will develop the rest of the weekend with both mantra and movement and sacred touch. Tantra is about, healing touch coupled with sound. And don’t worry. If you are someone who prefers self-touch rather than partner touch, the form of Tantra I teach is ideal for you as most of our practices in this gnostic stream are done alone. Nevertheless, it is awesome to practice in a group, especially one in which safe boundaries have been established and in which divine presence is valued above all else.
If you, or someone you know, would like to explore Restoring Your Heart to Wholeness, join us for the live event Or, if you cannot attend, at least pass on the word to friends and family who can benefit. Let’s come together and take a deep dive into the heart, to restore our relationship with the divine and with ourselves as a family, as a kula, at Kula Yoga Shala in Jupiter, FL, April 13 & 14.
For all inquires related to this event, contact: Kula Yoga Shala, 561.216.kula (5852)
The studio is located at: 400 Toney Penna Drive, Suite F, Jupiter, FL 33458
Studio Manager ~ Angie Greenfield email@example.com
General Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
SATURDAY, APRIL 13, AM, AWAKEN THE SPIRITUAL HEART: Understand the difference and relationships between our physical, emotional and spiritual hearts. Learn and how and why we need to integrate them all. This opening session sets the stage for the other sessions.
SATURDAY, APRIL 13, PM, NEGATIVE KARMIC INFLUENCES: Understand how negative experiences in our lives affect our spiritual experiences and our life at large in the present moment. Learn how to identify and transform the conditions that result from negative life experiences.
SATURDAY, APRIL 13, NIGHT KIRTAN, HEALING MANTRAS: Chant call and response mantras with intentions to heal specific conditions of the soul.
SUNDAY, APRIL 14, AM, HEALING FROM TRAUMA: In this session, we start to get deeper into the healing process to address conditions that might have stayed with us for a long time and continue to have negative impact on our lives and our efforts at spiritual practice and experience.
SUNDAY, APRIL 13, PM, SPIRITUAL LIBERATION: In this final session, the conclusion to our weekend, we address the role of healing in the goal of all spiritual paths, especially that of Yoga, Tantra and Bhakti, which is liberation, freedom, moksha, enlightenment, self-realization, mukti, samadhi.
Register here with Kula Yoga Shala
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